Those of you who studied art for the Leaving Cert may recall that the term Sfumato refers one of the most popular techniques of the High Renaissance, employed in particular by Leonard Da Vinci. It involves painting in miniscule brushstrokes to avoid harsh outlines , which makes for a hazy, smoky, depiction of light and colour (see the Mona Lisa as an example).
The fact that singer/songwriter Daithí Ó hÉignigh chose the name Sfumato for his group is quite apt. ‘These Things Between’ is a combination of traditional folk patterns and experiential sounds, and the overlap of these two contrasting forms is hazy, smoke-like and difficult to distinguish. While the resulting sound is not a million miles away from Irish singer/songwriters in the same folk inspired mould, such as Declan O’Rourke and Fionn Regan, Sfumato definitely have a distinctive sound of their own.
This may partly be due to the fact that Ó hÉignigh is first and foremost a drummer. This is something that really shines through on tracks like Fly to Me and The Past, where the percussion leaps out to become the lead instrument as opposed to just forming the rhythmic base.
The best moment on the album is probably Gold and Lace. While it is as measured and deliberate as anything else on the album, it also picks up the pace a bit, flowing effortlessly from trad stylings through bizarre drum beats. It is a brilliantly structured track that keeps adding new layers of sound as it goes along, building up to a point where the different strands all merge into one, allowing the music to wash over you – in other words a Sfumato effect where you can no longer perceive the edges clearly.